The Big Story: Ribbon cutting
Nothing encapsulates the Narendra Modi government better than the massive roadshow held by the prime minister in Delhi on Sunday. Although just 9 km of a planned 82-km highway between Delhi and Meerut is complete, Modi nevertheless held what seemed like a victory procession. With numerous television cameras in attendance, his roadshow covered 6 km of the nine completed kilometres.
Modi then took a helicopter to Baghpat, in Uttar Pradesh, where he inaugurated another road, in this case the completed Eastern Peripheral Expressway, which promises signal-free passage for traffic to bypass Delhi. Here too there was evidence of the Modi government’s penchant for turning everything into a public relations photo op.
The construction of the Eastern Peripheral Expressway was ordered by the Supreme Court when it told the government in 2005 to construct a ring road outside the capital that would help decongest Delhi. The matter came up again in April, when the National Highways Authority of India admitted that the road was ready, but had not been opened because Modi had not yet found the time to inaugurate it. An unhappy Supreme Court directed the authority to throw the road open to the public on May 31, whether or not an official inauguration could take place.
Despite this order from the court on May 10, the prime minister waited until May 27 to open the road. Some might connect it to the fact that a Lok Sabha by-poll is taking place on Monday in Kairana, which is adjacent to Baghpat, where Modi declared the expressway open. He used the event as an opportunity to claim that those opposing him were opposing the development of India.
This is typical of how the Modi government has approached elections of late. With little to show on the overall economic front, whether it is jobs or manufacturing, the government seems to be falling back on infrastructure and a politics of inauguration. The most egregious of examples came from Gujarat where, after allegations that the Bharatiya Janata Party had pressured the Election Commission to delay elections in 2017 so that it could announce more projects, Modi took a ride on the country’s first Roll-on Roll-off ferry service that would allow users to drive their cars onto a boat that then transported passengers and vehicles from Ghogha to Dahej.
Except it was not the first Ro-Ro service in India. In fact, the authorities in Gujarat had to build a special walkway so that Modi could carry out his inauguration, even though this walkway would have to be taken apart for the actual Ro-Ro service to begin. Almost comically, the Gujarat government has only now, more than half a year later, procured a boat that can actually carry vehicles – and of course, ministers would like Modi to come back and inaugurate that service too, again.
Whether this sort of activity will convince the voters remains to be seen. Some do hold the delay in polls, and subsequent inauguration flurry, as responsible for the BJP’s slim victory in Gujarat. But it is quite clear that the party that promised Acche Din, jobs and an India that would leap forward is now trying to earn popularity by falling back on the age-old tactic of ribbon-cutting in front of cameras, often of projects that were envisaged years ago.
- “I did not want anything coming in the way of my dreams, least of all something as normal as periods... Don’t let periods be an excuse,” writes PV Sindhu in the Times of India. “My period days didn’t make me falter, they made me more determined to pursue my dreams. Your dreams are what define your individuality. They have the power to give you wings and make you fly high. Let these words reverberate every time you think of holding back during periods.”
- Aakaash Singh Rathore in the Indian Express asks if it is possible to cultivate indigeneity without hyper-nationalism.
- “Since 2016, the buzzwords have been doubling farmers’ income,” writes Siraj Hussain in Mint. “ The prices of most crops in mandis have crashed after demonetisation and restrictions on trading and transportation of livestock have sharply depressed the prices of livestock, directly hitting farmers’ income. It is clear that we will have to wait till 2019 for deep agricultural reforms.”
- “Even after more than half a century of his death, Nehru continues to give nightmares to political Hindutva because despite his supposed indifference to religion and his insistence that, ‘the country must conduct itself through political principles, not through religious sentiment’, he won the faith and respect of his deeply religious compatriots and even today continues to be a figure of reverence and fond remembrance,” writes Purushottam Agarwal in the Quint.
Priya Pillai writes about the killing of protestors in Thoothukudi, saying the deaths are a is a tragic reminder that India is in the grip of a state-corporate nexus.
“The massacre was of a piece with how the Indian state has long dealt with its citizens who challenge industrial projects that pollute their air, water and other resources. In Tamil Nadu itself, around 7,000 villagers were charged with sedition in 2011 for opposing a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam. Hundreds were arrested as well.
Challenging the capitalist forces that destroy environment, livelihoods and resources, often with the state’s complicity, is dangerous business. For evidence, consider the continued repression that has been the fate of the Narmada Bachao Andolan; movements against the Tehri dam, the Kodaikanal Hindustan Unilever plant, Puthuvype gas terminal; or even the struggle for justice to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
These are merely some of the examples that have caught public attention. It is not uncommon that ordinary people and activists protesting against environmental destruction are deprived of their life and liberty, and it barely registers in the national discourse.”